Friday, April 30, 2010

Oooh, You'll Love the--Baby Insane?

I'm a big fan of David Bowie. His music is wonderful--occasionally transcendent and always fascinating. I've seen him in concert, an experience that I highly recommend. And I recently wrote a review of Bowie, a biography of the man by music journalist and historian Marc Spitz.

A few weeks ago, I found out that my brother is having a baby. Well, not my brother--actually his wife, although it could be cool to watch him try to give birth. Of course, I immediately went out and bought some books for this baby, whose gender is still indeterminate. I also started searching online for cute baby clothes that I might be able to purchase once my brother knows if he will be the proud new father of a boy or a girl.

And I discovered a really fantastic thing: the Aladdin Sane shirt, a pink t-shirt with white long sleeves which is emblazoned with artwork from the cover of Bowie's 1973 album. It is available in sizes for babies from newborn to 24 months. I cannot wait to get one.

Luckily, both my brother and my sister-in-law like Bowie, too; in fact, it was my brother who took me to that Bowie concert, and his wife accompanied us. While I do not expect that they will be radical parents, I do think that they would get a kick out of such a fashion statement. Of course, the color would probably limit my options--if they have a girl, great; otherwise, they may not appreciate the gender-bending that comes with a little boy wearing pink. So please, please, please let it be a girl, because I would love to be able to start her off with the right musical influences.

Buy through The Retro Baby for $25.95.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Classiest Books Imaginable

Penguin Classics books have long been a staple of American life, bringing world literature to the reader. I have several of their paperbacks on my own shelves, in fact. But now they are producing a line of linen-covered volumes that are so visually perfect that I wish I could give them some kind of award for design.

13 titles are currently available, 12 of which cover British literature and one of Homer's Odyssey. Each cover is decorated with a repeating pattern of a single image that represents a certain aspect of the novel; in the case of Stevenson's Treasure Island, for example, the illustration is of red parrots. My personal favorite, though, is Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Why is that, you may ask? Because it is stamped with pink flamingos, of course! The whimsical picture captures one of the most indelible scenes of the story--Alice playing croquet using a flamingo as a mallet. Kudos to whichever executive at Penguin commissioned Coralie Bickford-Smith to work on these books; she has created a collection that most readers would be proud to own and that can not only be read but also displayed as artwork in nearly any home.

Buy through Penguin Classics for $20.00.


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Little China Girl

Two years ago or so, my grandmother bequeathed her lovely pansy china to my mother, and I went down to the house with Mom to help her pack it up and take it back to our home. During the course of the afternoon, we chatted, of course. And then my grandmother asked me if I had chosen a china pattern for myself.

Okay, stop. Rewind. A china pattern? I was then, and remain now, romantically unattached. Apparently she was unaware, because when I told her that I wasn't even dating anyone, she responded with an absolutely incredulous, "You aren't?"


But the truth was, I had put some thought into it, because that's what I do--I think about things I want, as you might have noticed while reading this blog. So I made some vague response, since I had never actually physically looked at china, about wanting plain white dishes with a silver or platinum band.

Later on, I decided to do a bit of research in order to form a more coherent reply, and I eventually settled on Lenox Federal Platinum dinnerware. The simplicity of it is stunning; although there are no flourishes, the delicate yet purposeful curves give just the right flair to the cups, sugar bowl, creamer, gravy boat, and teapot. Also, the collection features many serving pieces, including bowls, platters, and coffee mugs. Best of all, a set of salt and pepper shakers is available, and I have written before about how much I love matching salt and pepper shakers.

This china perfectly suits me and my style. Perhaps someday I will have an excuse to ask for some of it (at least eight place settings, please, so that I can have some boss dinner parties)!

Buy a five-piece place setting through Macy's for $143.00.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Greatest State

A few months back, I stumbled across a sale of Maya Brenner jewelry somewhere online. It was the first time I had ever encountered Brenner's work. By and large, it is simple, with nice little flourishes here and there, which makes me a fan of many of the pieces.

For the last six years, I've been living away from my home in Michigan, but that state is never far from my mind. So when I saw that Maya Brenner has a line of necklaces with pendants in the shape of states, I knew I wanted one to represent the place where I grew up. Although I have not yet purchased my own, I have definitely chosen the style I want.

All 50 states are available, as well as a "Bi-Coastal" model with an outline of California paired with an apple to signify New York City. Each state comes in 14-karat gold or sterling silver, and you have the option of buying the pendant in either metal with a diamond accent; the diamond can be placed at any point around the inside edge of the state. A 16-inch chain is included.

Personally, I would very much like the sterling silver Michigan model, possibly with a diamond near my hometown. Which state is yours?

Buy through Maya Brenner Designs; prices start at $120.


Monday, April 26, 2010

"Come On, Daddio"

As far as fictional characters go, I have a few favorites. Guy Montag from Fahrenheit 451, of course, and Rob Petrie from The Dick van Dyke Show, Jeannie from I Dream of Jeannie, Calliope Stephanides from Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, the evil fairy in Briar Rose by Robert Coover, and several others. But the one with the most flair (not the magical kind--obviously Jeannie would win that prize) is probably Mrs. Mia Wallace, played by Uma Thurman, from my favorite movie, Pulp Fiction.

All right, so she's a coke fiend. And a little stupid. But, man, has she got some moves. She also has a fashion sense that I love: a crisp white shirt, simple black pants, and a fantastic bustier. Everything about Thurman's performance, from the way she sings along to "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" to the way she delivers the ketchup joke is so spot-on that Mia becomes immortal for the viewer, because she is far too human to be evanescent. Thurman definitely earned her Academy Award nomination, and I feel that it is something of a crime that she did not win.

Of course, she's not much of a role model (unless you aspire to need an adrenaline shot due to a heroin overdose, of course). What she is, though, is fun. For several years running, I made myself up as Mia Wallace for Halloween, and while very few of my friends understood, I got a kick out of it every time precisely because the character is so entertaining. She remains, for me, one of the best characters Quentin Tarantino ever dreamed up.

Buy Pulp Fiction on DVD through Best Buy for $14.99.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

People We Covet: Walt Whitman

If I had to pick one person with whom to spend the rest of my life, I would pass up Madonna, Lady Gaga, Scott Weiland (lead singer of Stone Temple Pilots), Quentin Tarantino, and even Dick van Dyke to spend time with my very favorite man in the history of the world, Walt Whitman.

It's not just his beautiful face that pulls me in, although it is very pretty, indeed. Ultimately, it is the poetry that moves me, as it should be. In fact, I very firmly feel that if you are not somehow affected by "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking," you don't have a soul. (Really.)

It is difficult for me to define the appeal. What I can say for sure is that I believe Walt Whitman did more for poetry than any other writer, with the possible exceptions of William Blake and e.e. cummings. Of course, that is a largely subjective opinion. Still, I stand by it.

Whitman's versatility is one of the keys to his enduring reputation with me, I think. He writes of everything: the sea, the wide open spaces of America, the working man, the child, the woman, the athlete, the bird, politics, love, war, family, friendship, poetry, and, most joyfully, himself. Each of the 52 sections of "Song of Myself" have something to offer, and some of my very favorite lines in all of poetry end the final section: "Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged, / Missing me one place search another, / I stop somewhere waiting for you." These are the words of a man who wants to share himself with the world and, perhaps more importantly, wants the world to share itself with him.

Other notable pieces include "To One Shortly to Die," wherein Whitman speaks as Death; "We Two Boys Together Clinging," one of the most perfect love poems I've ever encountered; and, of course, the long poem "I Sing the Body Electric," if for no other reason than that it contains what may be the dirtiest line every written: "Limitless limpid jets of love hot and enormous, quivering jelly of love, white-blow and delirious juice[...]." (I wasn't kidding when I said he wrote of everything.)

For those of you who have never encountered Whitman, please do so immediately. Leaves of Grass has changed my life and that of several of my friends. I cannot recommend any poetry so highly as this.

Buy through Barnes and Noble for $8.95.


PS This is the first installment of what will become a regular feature: People We Covet. Check back on the 25th of every month for more featured individuals!

Saturday, April 24, 2010


Word on the street is that clogs are back.

I mean, so back that even Chanel is featuring them on the runway. Of course, this is sort of old news; the Chanel SS 10 show was held back in the fall, but the looks are just now hitting stores. And Chanel is not the only fashion house to feature clogs this year. For example, there is Stuart Weitzman's preppy take on the clog, complete with tassels and brass studs. I'm also a fan of this clog from MICHAEL Michael Kors; I think that the lacing makes for the perfect update to an old favorite. For our more budget-minded readers, there is an unadorned yet nice version from Lassen.

But if you are looking for a splurge, please look no more; I have found the clog for you: the Prada Clog Sandal. Although it may not look like a traditional clog, the way it is modeled makes it the perfect summertime shoe. Besides, who among ye cannot admire the construction of it? That heel! Those straps! If only my clothing allowance would support such a dreamy shoe!


Friday, April 23, 2010

So Unlike a Rhinestone Cowboy

Although I am unfamiliar with most of the body of Glen Campbell's work, there is one song of his that I do know and truly adore: the classic love ballad, "Wichita Lineman," one of my Top 100 Songs.

My mother describes Campbell's voice in this song as absolutely crystal clear, and that description is spot-on. The clean quality of his tone and the transparency of his delivery touches me more than any overwrought vocals ever could. And while the lyrics are not made up of what we would traditionally think of as "love song" lines--save, of course, for those lines from the chorus, "And I need you more than want you, / And I want you for all time"--the longing is both obvious and palpable. This is the song of a man who is dedicated to his work and wishes that he could leave it all behind to be with the one he loves but knows that he must carry on. That, ladies and gentlemen, is poignancy in action.

It may be that I'm so fond of this song because Campbell performed it with three members of Stone Temple Pilots--my favorite band--while they were recording their fifth studio album, Shangri-la Dee Da, and footage of that (never-released) performance made it onto STP's greatest-hits DVD, Thank You, in 2003. Even in that rendition, Campbell's voice remains strong and constant, and, in a way, triumphant; he adds a last line to the song: "And I'm doin' fine," as if to let us, himself, and his love know that he will continue to persevere.

I also am something of a collector of covers of "Wichita Lineman." When I was a kid, country music artist Wade Hayes recorded his version of the song, which has never been released digitally but can still be found on Amazon if you are willing to pay for the single on CD; however, the prices are pretty steep. Ray Charles also released a cover of the song on Volcanic Action of My Soul, which is something else altogether, combining Campbell's country twang with Charles' unique orchestration and phrasing to create a dynamic listening experience.

By far my favorite cover of the song is Johnny Cash's. It was released posthumously on Cash Unearthed, a box set of recordings he made toward the end of his life with Rick Rubin. This stripped-down rendition is like "Wichita Lineman" all grown up: still toiling, still loving, still hoping to come home. It is at once heartbreaking and heartwarming, and Cash could not possibly have treated it better.

There are, of course, several more covers, but that is probably another post for another time. And though I would not go so far as to call it my favorite love song--that honor is probably reserved for Madonna's "Like a Prayer"--"Wichita Lineman" has a special place in my heart and in my music collection. It is one of the few songs that I will never turn off when it comes on the radio, whether I am too busy to listen or not. I hope that each of you will take the time to check it out, and that you will hear the same magic I hear.

Buy Campbell's original "Wichita Lineman" through Amazon for $0.99.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Axes / After Whose Stroke the Wood Rings, / And the Echoes!"

When I was in high school, I wasn't much on poetry. The reasons for this are various, and I will not enumerate them here. What I can say is that one of the very few poets whose work appealed to me at that time, and whose work endures for me, is Sylvia Plath.

The first poem of Plath's that I can remember reading is "Mirror," which has since become one of my favorites. Years later, during my last semester of college, I had an independent study in Plath's works (mainly her poetry), and it was during that class that I spent a great deal of time reading The Collected Poems, the posthumous compendium of her poetry that won the Pulitzer Prize.

According to Ted Hughes, Plath's estranged husband and executor of her estate from the time of her death in 1963 to the time of his own in 1998, The Collected Poems includes every poem Plath wrote from 1956 until her death, as well as an appendix of selected poems written prior to 1956, defined by Hughes as Juvenilia; 1956 is the year designated as the first in Plath's "professional" life.

This assemblage, given in chronological order, is the ultimate culmination of Plath's career and beautifully shows her progression from a decent, if somewhat too careful, poet to the absolutely indomitable poetic force she was at the time of her death. While some of the earlier poems, presented--namely pieces like "Soliloquy of the Solipsist" (1956), "The Thin People" (1957), and "Lorelei" (1958)--are gems, the poems from 1959 and later are the real prizes.

Of course, everyone knows "Blackberrying" (1961), "Daddy, (1962), and "Lady Lazarus" (1962), and with good reason. But many other pieces--"Mushrooms" (1959), "Love Letter" (1960), "The Rival" (1961), "Years" (1962), and "Words" (1963), to name only five--deserve just as much attention and care. Perhaps the best thing about The Collected Poems is that the reader can constantly flip back and forth between poems to examine and compare them; Plath repeatedly employed several words and images, and it is interesting to view the different angles from which she sees those things.

I've never loved a single book of poetry more than my much-highlighted copy of The Collected Poems, and part of me hopes that I never do.

Buy through Barnes & Noble for $12.95.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Best Lawn Decoration Ever

In my last post, I mentioned my love of flamingos. And since the weather is getting warmer, especially where I live, I thought that now would be a good time to discuss one of my favorite housewares of all, the lawn flamingo.

What's not to love about these miniature wonders? They're cute, they're cheerful, they're fun, they're retro, and they're super-affordable. Unfortunately for me, I have no lawn and thus nowhere to display the magnificent creatures. However, someday I absolutely will buy a set for myself and proudly display them no matter where I live.

By the by, somewhere in this world (specifically, in the great state of North Carolina) there are two houses right down the road from each other that each have a giant--and I really do mean that; they're probably about ten feet tall each--lawn flamingos. Should you get the chance, I really recommend tracking them down. They are a sight, indeed.

Buy 2 (regular-sized) lawn flamingos through for $18.99.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

No One Could Ever Possibly Have That Many Keys

When I was little, I had a large collection of key chains. I used to link them together and hang them from nails in my bedroom door frame. Some of the more memorable ones were a little Pegasus, a miniature trash can-shaped one that opened for storage, and a leather piece embossed with a butterfly that my brother picked up at a prison gift shop (true story).

I'm still a fan of key chains. Of course, I don't need many of them, but that doesn't keep me from looking. Last summer, Mom and I were in Chicago, and we stopped in at a Coach store, where I bought a patent leather key chain in the shape of a flamingo; I'm a big fan of flamingos in general, so it is pretty much the perfect accessory for me. Over the last couple of months, I've stumbled across several nice silver-tone key chains that are both fashionable and fun.

The first is the Lake Key Ring from Swarovski. This whimsical piece is perfect for summer with its built-in nautical theme and sparkle. Maritime activities never seemed this fun to me before!

The second, from Tiffany & Co., is disarmingly simple: the Open Heart Key Ring by Elsa Peretti. It is a twist on the classic split ring that comes with most key chains but is, ultimately, a miniature work of art.

My final key chain pick is a little punky, a lot classy: the Check Engraved Key Ring from Burberry. Although it is quite busy with all of its appendages, I really appreciate the varied check patterns on it, and I can just imagine how it would glint in the sunlight.

Although each of these key chains is out of my price range, they all bring a smile to my face and remind me of the days when I loved adding on to my key chain collection.


Monday, April 19, 2010

Beautiful Disasters

Earlier this year, I was desperate to watch a few comedies, so I spent hours trolling through Netflix Instant to find a film that would give me a lift. One of the movies I stumbled across was Love and Other Disasters, starring Brittany Murphy.

Released in 2007, the film seems made just for me. Murphy plays Jacks, a young woman who works for British Vogue, and she is very fashion-conscious, indeed, paying homage to Audrey Hepburn with each outfit she wears. Her roommate Peter, played by Matthew Rhys, is an aspiring screenwriter, and the entire conceit of the movie is that it is Peter is writing the screenplay of the story that is unfolding, complete with settings, descriptions, and a scene, toward the end, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Orlando Bloom as Jacks and her boyfriend, in a nod to a joke made much earlier in the film. This meta-fictional structure is absolutely delightful. There is humor and heart in the story. And the film itself looks beautiful, from the not-quite-gritty London in which Jacks lives to her apartment--all white, black, slate blue, and silver, as seen here (forgive the nature of Murphy's costume; it was the best picture I could find).

Of course, it helps that Alek Keshishian directed and produced it. For those of you who don't know, he directed Madonna: Truth or Dare, which I have previously discussed. One of his producing partners for the movie was David Fincher of Fight Club fame, who also directed the music video for Madonna's "Vogue" and several others. (Luc Besson, director of The Fifth Element, another movie I adore, was also a producer.) So it was bound to have a great look and a certain flair.

I recently found a copy for myself and am looking forward to rewatching it soon. You can buy your own through Family Video for $12.99.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Crazy for Kors Bags? Who, Me?

Although I may not be the so-called "quintessential American girl"--no sailing, country clubs, or twinsets here, kids--I am a huge fan of the American aesthetic. I love American cars and American handbags. My favorite clothing designer is Michael Kors, that arbiter of sportswear, which, ultimately, is an American fashion creation. I've mentioned a clutch of his before. Today, I would like to discuss some of his bigger bags.

For the last few months, one Michael Kors advertisement, which has run in several fashion magazines, has prominently featured the Erin Tote. This purple and silver concoction is, in my opinion, just about the perfect bag for Spring: the cheery color, the size (large enough to stash a compact umbrella, should you have foresight enough to carry one on days when it might rain, among other things), and the pleated detailing all scream "fresh" to me. And it would look so good next to a little black dress, no?

The next bag came to my attention through Purse Blog, a favorite website of mine. It is the Skorpios Pleated Crescent Hobo, a beautiful example of the form. It is completely pleated across the entire body of the bag with delicate, thin folds, and the additional texture added by the braid detailing of the handle and gold studs on the hardware add even more visual interest. Unfortunately, even if my bank account could support such an accessory, I have imposed a ban on buying more black handbags for myself. But, of course, that does not mean that I can not think about this one from time to time.

The final example I'd like to share is a piece that actually goes against most of my handbag preferences. The ID Chain Tote in Sand Python Embossed Leather features a drawstring top, heavy gold chains, and a snake print. Yet somehow, each feature combines to make an impressive product, one that I could probably never pull off myself but that I would love to see someone else rocking. Perhaps I can persuade one of you?


Saturday, April 17, 2010

How Far Can I Go In These Shoes? Miles.

Back in the day, circa 1999, I was in middle school, and Jessica Simpson's first single, "I Wanna Love You Forever," had just broken onto the charts. She sounded like Mariah Carey's little sister. And she was totally obnoxious.

It must have been tough for her, trying to make music during the same time that Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera were dominating pop radio. But then again, she didn't help herself much with the whole Newlyweds fiasco later in her career. However, I must give the girl some credit: although her music career hasn't necessarily gone so well, she did the smart thing and branched out into other fields; the one that interests me is fashion.

You see, I adore Jessica Simpson Collection shoes. I admit, some of the styles are a little ridiculous: too high, too strappy, whatever. But outrageous shoes are my specialty. I've mentioned JSC Leve Flats before, but I've never talked about my very favorite shoes ever, JSC Miles.

Peep-toe slingbacks with a cork heel and platform are my preferred style of shoes. I like the pin-up vibe, I suppose. But the Miles wedges? They have everything I want in a shoe. They are glorious, comfortable, and surprisingly easy to jump in (but I won't go into details about how I know that). They are the perfect summer shoe. Although I haven't worn them in awhile, I keep them on prominent display in my bedroom. Originally I bought them to wear to the most important night of my life (so far), and they have served me better than I ever could have imagined.

So, Jessica Simpson, I commend you, and have no fear: I am sure to discuss more of your shoes in the future.


Friday, April 16, 2010

I Saw the Sign, and It Was Good

Perhaps some of you out there will judge me for what I'm about to say, but I must confess: Ace of Base makes me happy.

I'm not even kidding. When I was about seven years old, their album The Sign was released. And it was huge. A girl at my elementary school sung along to the title track at some kind of talent show assembly. My friend Ashley and I loved to dance around to "All That She Wants." "Don't Turn Around" was probably my favorite track.

But their second stateside album, The Bridge, was my favorite. My brother bought it for me, and I was so excited. I still own that CD. Even today, I will listen to it, usually in the car, but occasionally on my iPod, as well. And I have found that it holds up surprisingly well. Although Ace of Base were sitting atop the apex of European dance-pop in the 1990s, their music was actually quite good and well-produced. It does not sound as cheesy or tinny as the music of certain lesser acts. And both The Sign and The Bridge are--to me, at least--very clearly important predecessors of Lady Gaga's second album, The Fame Monster. In fact, I very firmly feel that Lady Gaga's latest single, "Alejandro," is what Ace of Base would sound like if they had broken through this year instead of 17 years ago.

I highly recommend that everyone interested in pop or dance music listen to The Bridge, at the very least, if not The Sign, as well. Outstanding tracks on The Bridge include "Lucky Love," "Wave Wet Sand," and "Que Sera."

Buy through Amazon.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

"There Must Be Things In Books, Things We Can't Imagine"

One of the greatest touchstones of my life is, and has been for a number of years, Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. I have read it multiple times, written numerous papers about it both in high school and college, and given copies of it to my father and my best guy friend, among a few others. It means that much to me.

I've never been able to properly explain my attachment to Fahrenheit. Part of it is the batshit craziness that is Clarisse. Part of it is the near-android detachment of Mildred. Part of it is the dedication that Faber shows to literature. Part of it is the megalomaniacal antics of Beatty. A larger part of it has to do with that greatest of Firemen, Guy Montag.

But mostly it's about the writing itself. There is one passage that I repeatedly point to above all others to showcase the simple beauty of Bradbury's language: "[...T]he heart is suddenly shattered, the body falls in separate motions, and the blood is astonished to be freed on the air; the brain squanders its few precious memories and, puzzled, dies" (158). For me, words like that represent the ultimate culmination of centuries of literature that came before; it is poetry, it is drama, it is truth, it is fantastic. It makes me want to be a better writer.

I could expound upon the merits of Fahrenheit at length. But, this being a blog, I feel that it is not the proper forum for doing so. However, I will leave you with the truest words I have ever encountered, from the coda: "There is more than one way to burn a book. And the world is full of people running about with lit matches. Every minority [...] feels it has the will, the right, the duty to douse the kerosene, light the fuse" (176-7). And it is because of Bradbury that so many authors have been willing to break free from such oppression--he proved that he could do it, and so should we.

Buy through Better World Books.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Car As Spaceship

Since high school, I've been a fan of cars. Of course, this has something to do with growing up in Michigan, Land of the Automobile. One of my favorite manufacturers is Lincoln, that iconic American luxury brand. And for the last two years, I have been absolutely drooling over their MKZ, an updated and renamed version of the original Lincoln Zephyr.

It has everything I like in any kind of design: clean lines, sleek styling, and great details. I'm terribly fond of it in Brilliant Silver with a Dark Charcoal interior. But prices start at just over $34,000, which means that it costs, well, more money than I can spend on a car. Another down side is the less-than stellar fuel economy (an estimated 27 mpg highway, which is lower than that of both of the cars I've owned). And although it is built on the same platform as the Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan--actually quite nice cars themselves, if you're looking for a family sedan or a less flashy ride--I feel that it stands alone visually.

In addition to putting out a quality product, Lincoln has found another way to pull me in: their latest commercials feature some pretty boss music. Spots for the MKS (like an MKZ, but sportier) employ Cat Power's cover of "Space Oddity" by David Bowie, who is one of my idols. And the spots for the MKZ use Shiny Toy Guns' discofied cover of "Major Tom (Coming Home)" by German singer Peter Schilling, which is based on the Major Tom character featured in "Space Oddity." Oh, Lincoln, how you entice me with your clever use of space-age styling.

For the record, I have a perfectly nice vehicle that I really do like and runs very well. But every time I see an MKZ roll by, my heart flutters a bit and I begin to dream.

Listen to a sample of Shiny Toy Guns' "Major Tom (Coming Home)" on their website.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

But What Do Mayflowers Bring?

Traditional wisdom holds that April showers bring May flowers. Well, where I live, March is our rainy month. But even in April, I love a good umbrella.

For about the past six years, I've owned a perfectly serviceable London Fog umbrella, black with multicolored dots. Of course, it hasn't seen much action, because it is usually in one of two places: the back of my car or the back of my closet; I always forget to bring it with me. So I'm constantly tromping through the rain with nothing to cover my head, unless I happen to be wearing a hooded jacket or sweatshirt.

Really, I have no business looking at umbrellas, because I know that I'll never use them. However, from time to time, I stumble across one that is so pretty or perfect that I can't help myself; I feel the impulse to buy it, like this one from Cath Kidston, a British designer: the Shooting Star Birdcage Umbrella. Although I don't normally like the clear type of umbrella, I am a sucker for stars. They get me every time.

For those of you who are art-minded, there is the Detroit Industry Umbrella, available from the Detroit Institute of Arts. Although it is simply black on the outside, the inside of it is decorated with images from Diego Rivera's beautiful mural. I love it because it would bring a little bit of inspiration to my days, and also a reminder of home.

Kids will find the next umbrella to be fun: the 3-D Ladybug! Actually, I'm 23 and find it to be fun. A little loud, perhaps, but exceedingly cute.

And then there is the end-all of umbrellas, the Burberry Haymarket Check Walker. You know, the umbrella you could never, ever afford because, well, it costs $250. But it is classy beyond all belief, the perfect match for a trench coat.

I won't be buying any of these for myself, but I hope that you have found something that might protect you for the duration of your rainy season!


Monday, April 12, 2010

Telling the Truth

I love Madonna.

No, seriously. She's fantastic. It is very inspiring to me to see a fellow Michigander proving herself to the world. Many people disagree with the way she lives her life. Ultimately, I don't pay too much attention to that because, really, she's created a character like any other celebrity would, but that character is not the most important thing she's produced. Rather, it's the music.

I had intended to write about her latest concert film and CD, The Sticky and Sweet Tour. Unfortunately, when I went to buy it, it was sold out, and thus I have not been able to view or listen to it. So I decided instead to discuss one of the documentaries about her, and probably the most famous: Truth or Dare.

Madonna had released concert films prior to documenting her Blonde Ambition world tour, and, of course, she had been featured as an actress in many movies throughout the 1980s. But Truth or Dare is uncensored, unpolished Madonna all the time. From time to time, it is shown on VH1 Classic, and I always stop to watch it. Rolling Stone named it one of the Top 25 Music DVDs of All Time. It even has its own Wikipedia page.

Madonna has her good moments in the film. One of the most touching scenes is her visit to her mother's grave; another is when someone asks her, during a game of (what else?) Truth or Dare, who her greatest love has been, and she answers, simply and without any further discussion, "Sean" (as in Penn, her first husband, whom she had divorced the year before Truth or Dare was filmed). Of course, she also shows herself to be a loud-mouthed control freak, but do we expect anything else from the world's biggest pop star?

The performances interspersed throughout the narrative are what really catch my attention in the film. During the musical sequences, the viewer is blown away by Madonna's energy and commitment to what she does. It is very impressive to see someone loving her work so much. Also, the costumes from the show, designed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, continue to arrest the eye, as does Madonna's long, blonde ponytail, reminiscent of the one made famous by Barbara Eden on I Dream of Jeannie, which I have tried, and repeatedly failed, to recreate on my own head.

Although I do not currently own a copy of the film myself, it remains a touchstone for me, as do her later productions Drowned World Tour and, especially, The Confessions Tour. Perhaps someday I will be lucky enough to encounter Madge on tour; in the meantime, these documentaries will have to suffice.

Buy through Amazon for $16.49.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hold Me Closer

Awhile back, I was watching a great deal of Sex and the City. And I kept seeing Carrie walk around with these fantastic oversized clutches, such as the one seen here in the movie. Of course I wanted one, because they were so sleek and chic. But apparently they are not so easily had. In fact, I have never seen a single one as large as Carrie's. But there are many other clutch options.

In general, I prefer larger bags, partly because I wear glasses and like to have my sunglasses on hand, and partly because I like to keep a notebook around at all times. Sure, Judith Leiber's minaudieres are stunning, but they are completely impractical, and also very expensive. In fact, it seems to be the smallest clutches that are the coolest ones; for example, this Jimmy Choo clutch. Oftentimes, the bigger clutches cost too much, like the fantastic Alexa Clutch in leopard-print from Mulberry, or the one that really makes me drool, the Kristin Embossed Exotic Clutch from Coach.

I found two that I particularly like that are more or less large enough for me. The first is the Zee Zee Top Zelda Clutch from Christian Audigier. While I realize that this is the man who brought Ed Hardy to the world, I am also terribly fond of the zipper detailing. The bag is exactly my style--a little classy, a little punk. In fact, I was even lucky enough to find it on sale at TJ Maxx not once but twice; however, I passed it up both times because I wasn't willing to spend the money on it, even at such a significant discount (about 40% off). After all, it wouldn't be my everyday bag.

The second is from MICHAEL Michael Kors. And it is fantastic. I love it in the blush metallic. It has clean lines. It's spacious. And, let's face it: it's from Michael Kors. He's my favorite designer. And it would be so versatile. But it is cost-prohibitive, as well, which just breaks my heart. But I will continue to dream of it.

Buy through Nordstrom for $198.00.


More About Flats

Ok, so as I'm pretty sure Cate will start haunting me if I don't post something soon, here goes nothing. To continue on the topic of flats that Cate spoke of in the last post.

Why is it so damned hard to find simple black flats? I swear these are one of the hardest items to find. Yes, I find ones I like but they either don't come in my size (stupid big feet), are too narrow (stupid wide feet), or are just plain uncomfortable. Which is just stupid. The whole point of having flats is to have comfortable shoes that also look professional so we don't have to wear heels everyday. Which is welcomed, especially by those of us who work in more casual atmospheres.

So my question to everyone out there is: are there really black flats (or any color, for that matter) that fit how they are supposed to and come in a size for me? Or for any everyday woman--that won't break the bank?


Saturday, April 10, 2010

It Must Be the Audrey Hepburn Influence

The last pair of shoes I bought were acquired back in January at Aldo. They are what you might call a little ridiculous. But they are also beautiful and surprisingly comfortable, and I love them. I was also excited to see them used in an advertisement for Buffalo Jeans; I can't seem to find a copy of the ad online, but I can tell you that it appeared in the March 2010 issue of Nylon Magazine, if you're feeling up to a scavenger hunt.

For the moment, I have enough pairs of heels (my best guy friend will never, ever believe that I've said this), but I would very much like to buy a new pair of flats. You see, it's hard work, walking around in 3-inchers every day. And more often than not, my days do not call for fancy shoes. But I'm kind of sick of the flip-flop look (my mom will never, ever believe that I've said this); after all, I like to pretend to be professional on occasion.

My beloved Jessica Simpson Leve flats are still in decent shape; actually, my dad was nice enough to polish them up for me over Easter break, and they look so much better than they did before. I have considered buying a new pair of them, since I really do love them. But I thought that I should at least take a look around before committing.

At Ross the other day, I came across this really cute pair of Sperrys, but they were about half a size too big, and there were no other pairs available. Also, the color doesn't really go with most of my wardrobe. The advantage, however, is that they are a little more preppy, a little more classically American, which is what I'm striving for the most in my clothing choices right now. Tory Burch has taken the shoe world by storm with her line of Reva flats, of course, but they are out of my price range. Two weeks ago, I found a really cute pair of flats at the Nine West outlet, but they rubbed my ankles quite badly. Recently, I've been to DSW, Belk, and TJ Maxx, all to no avail.

So it's looking more and more like I will, indeed, purchase a replacement pair of Leves. Which, ultimately, is really okay with me. Because you can't go wrong with your favorite things.

Buy through Jessica Simpson Collection for $59.00.


Friday, April 9, 2010

These Beautiful Scottish Boys

Who doesn't love a Scotsman? Sir Sean Connery and Kevin McKidd are definitely at the top of my list, along with the men from a little band called Franz Ferdinand.

No, I don't really understand why they chose to name themselves after this Austrian dude. (I mean, other than the fact that he's mostly famous for starting a war, which is pretty epic, really.) But I don't care. Because they are fantastic.

Their first full release, which was self-titled, dropped just before the end of my high school career. The lead single was "Take Me Out," and it was absolutely the most perfect song I had heard in quite awhile. Other cuts, such as "Dark of the Matinee" and "Darts of Pleasure" were sonic delights. Each time I revisit the album, I find myself listening to it straight through and loving every minute of it. I suppose it helps that their singer, Alex Kapranos, is, well, totally my type.

In a way, the sound of Franz Ferdinand is entirely new, but also comfortingly old. It makes me feel like I've been transported to suburban Great Britain circa 1970. (For the record, I have never been to Great Britain, and I certainly wasn't there in 1970, so I have no reasonable, logical basis for this feeling.) I usually listen to it while I drive. And I feel confident in saying that it will be in my collection for a good long while.

Buy through Best Buy for $9.99.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dear Diary, Today I (Fill in the Blank)

Rachel McAdams is a pretty cool chick. She's a good actress and beautiful to boot. So when I saw her on the cover of the January 2010 issue of Vogue, I had to pick up a copy and read the accompanying article. In it, the author, Sally Singer, mentions that Ms. McAdams uses something called Keel's Simple Diary. The Simple Diary is kind of like Mad Libs for grown-ups, giving the diarist options for describing what kind of day he or she had and explaining what made it so, as well as asking other questions meant to induce self-reflection.

I had to have one.

Throughout the years, I have tried desperately to keep up with a diary or journal. Each time I attempt it again, I fail. It doesn't matter what kind of notebook I use--spiral bound, fancy, lined, whatever. I seem to have some kind of diarist deficiency in my genes. Seriously. So the Simple Diary was very appealing to me: it would give me prompts! It would make me want to come back to it!

Both of those are true. I ordered my Simple Diary (in green), and since it arrived on 8 January, I have made an entry every day. But making an entry every day for three months means that I have used up approximately 75% of the entries. This is not good news.

Officially, I own Keel's Simple Diary Volume One. However, there is no Volume Two. At least, there is not one yet. So when my diary runs out, approximately one month from now, what will I do with myself? Should I order another one, perhaps this time in a different color, and start the process all over again? Or will that get old and turn me off of keeping a diary again? Perhaps I will simply buy a nice journal and pre-date the entries to ensure that I will keep up with the writing. In the meantime, I will anxiously await the second installment.

Buy the Simple Diary through Taschen Books for $15.00. Available in six colors.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Let There Be Plates

About a year and a half ago, I picked out a set of everyday dishes for myself with some help from my mother. The pattern I chose was Scandia White from Corelle, which I've been given to understand actually originated as a CorningWare pattern. My grandmother purchased the dishes for me as a Christmas present. The good news is that CorningWare is still producing some baking and serving pieces in this set. The bad news, which to me is actually kind of devastating? Corelle has apparently stopped production of the dishes themselves.

I really like my Scandia White dishes. Mom and I agreed that it 1) fit my style and 2) would serve me well for a long time. For those of you who are not familiar with Corelle, it is pretty much indestructible. In fact, Mom swears by the brand and has had only two different sets of their dishes in my lifetime (the second of which has a pattern that was only very recently discontinued, and she's had it for at least 15 years), and my grandmother's set has been around for as long as I can remember. But my set? It's incomplete. In fact, it's pretty drastically so. I only have 16 pieces--four each of luncheon plates, dinner plates, salad/soup bowls, and mugs. Of course, this is more than enough for now, since it's just me living on my own. The plan was to buy a second set of 16, along with some of the baking and serving pieces, when I moved into a bigger place or got married. I especially wanted the matching salt and pepper shakers, because I think that shakers are some of the most best accessories a person can use to change up the look of a table or dining room without going overboard.

Luckily, there is a good chance that I will not need any more dishes for quite some time. But still.

When the time comes to expand the set, I may branch out into the Pure White. It is the same shape and color as Scandia White but without the details that make the Scandia White so cool. But for now, I shall mourn the loss of my favorite.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tick Tock

I want a watch.

This summer, I will be starting grad school. So I feel that it would be prudent to have a wristwatch instead of my cell phone, you know, just in case I forget to silence the phone in my first class, my phone dies, et cetera. The problem is, I break watches. Each Christmas for about five years running, during middle and high school, my brother would give me a watch. No fancy timepieces here--just the standard kind that could be had at Target or Meijer. The reason he had to keep buying them for me was that I had a really vicious habit of breaking the faces. This was never intentional on my part; I'm just clumsy. So eventually he stopped, and I haven't had a watch at least since I started college in 2004, if not before that.

It's time for a new one.

The question becomes, how much am I willing to spend, given my history? I'm torn between buying something really nice--i.e. metal, designer--that will survive at least for the duration of my two-and-a-half years in school and getting some cheapo plastic digital job. But at this point, I have pretty much decided on a metal watch. In fact, I've even narrowed it down to three.

1) Guess U10055L1

The advantages: Cute crystal accents plus markings at every minute, as well as dials indicating day of the week, day of the month, and hour in the military (24-hour) style.

2) Kenneth Cole New York KC 4650

The advantages: An uncluttered face with crystal accents plus markings at every minute, as well as a nice, slim watch band.

3) Michael Kors MK 5070

The advantages: A completely streamlined face design with markings at every minute as well as a dial indicating the day of the month.

Each appeals to me because of the color (I'm crazy about silver) and would coordinate well with most of my clothes. I'm leaning toward the Michael Kors, but the Kenneth Cole is growing on me, too. So, dear reader, I ask you: which watch would you recommend for me?